Not everyone is a big fan of Black Friday. It used to be more of a game for savvy shoppers to hunt down special holiday deals. Then a lot of big box stores began to capitalize on the craze and start the sales just a little bit earlier each year.
It wasn’t long before it seemed like there was barely time to clear the turkey off the table and shove the dishes into the sink if you wanted to hit the earliest sales. Sales that started late Thanksgiving evening or at the stroke of midnight Friday morning.
As it turns out, employees didn’t exactly enjoy being dragged away from their pumpkin pie and grandparents to come open the doors for a few early shoppers. It also turns out that customers weren’t so keen on the idea either. The negative fallout among consumers in recent years has forced a number of larger retailers to go back to shutting their doors on Thanksgiving in order to let employees spend time with their families.
Now, even Black Friday seems to have lost its shimmer. While Black Friday is still a big shopping day for brick and mortar stores, sales are slowing down dramatically. In 2015, sales dropped 12% over just the previous year alone.
Savvy shoppers are now turning to Cyber Monday and online deals throughout the season in order to save just as much or more than they could on Black Friday. Many are becoming increasingly cynical about the gimmicky nature of Black Friday deals. Consumers realize that big box stores are using cheap, no-name substitutes for quality items to lure customers through the doors or sharply limiting quantities of the few quality deals available.
So, if you’re a small business owner, where does that leave you? Can you really afford to keep the door shut on Thanksgiving, skip the madness of Black Friday, and remain competitive?
You sure can.
In fact, if you do it right, you may be able to cut right through all the noise of the larger Black Friday promotions, hone in on your target market, and make them appreciate you even more for ducking the annual craze. Here’s how you can do it:
Get Your Message Out at the Optimum Time
The best way to keep your message from getting lost in all the noise created by your larger competitors is to talk about something different. If you can’t be the first place customers visit, make your message the last one they hear. And make it unique:
- Focus your attention toward Small Business Saturday. In 2017, that falls on November 25th, the day after Black Friday. That’s perfect for capturing both consumers who are looking to extend their adrenaline rush from the day before and the segment of the population that hides at home until the hoopla on Friday is over.
- Join forces with other neighboring shops, small restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. This is especially effective if you operate in an area where there are a lot of small businesses close together. You can share the cost of promotional flyers and signs and encourage consumers to make a day out of exploring the local city shops. Consider chipping in together to offer a $100 prize (or several) in a random drawing for people who add their emails to the mailing list of any participating business.
Create Enthusiasm Among Shoppers
You can still take advantage of Black Friday benefits by remembering that it’s largely about creating interest in your business, increasing foot traffic through your doors, and standing out from the competition:
- If you can’t compete with the deep discounts larger companies are offering, don’t even try. Instead, give customers something that you can afford to sacrifice. Try to tie your giveaways to your business whenever possible. For example, if you’re a bakery, a free cookie for everyone who walks through the door is a low-cost giveaway. It will get people to try your wares and leave them feeling good about your generosity.
- Sacrifice old inventory if you want to make a big impression. If the old inventory has to go anyway, use it to make customers feel appreciated. For example, if you own a beauty supply store, now is a great time to offer a free nail polish out of your old stock with any $10 purchase or put together “grab bags” of mystery items for inexpensive stocking stuffers.
Don’t Forget to Use Social Media
Even though Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are focused on bringing foot traffic through the doors, you don’t want to neglect your social media connections:
- Make sure that you get plenty of photos of your store and displays of stock on your Facebook page and website in anticipation of the big event. Photos of smiling employees having fun can create an infectious feeling of joy that may spread to your customers and encourage them to visit.
- Ask customers who seem to be dressed for the holiday spirit if they’d mind appearing on your website or Facebook page and take a selfie with them. A personal touch like that can make you — as an owner — seem approachable and interesting all season long.
- Offer a discount to anyone who will check-in through their Facebook or Google apps. That spreads the message about your awesome business to everyone on that customer’s list of friends.
Small businesses can easily skip Black Friday and still remain competitive by applying the same principles to Small Business Saturday. You can cash in on the growing anti-Black Friday sentiments of people who have begun to feel cheated by the increasingly structured nature of the event at big stores. And simultaneously you can capture the lingering enthusiasm of those who still enjoy the day but aren’t ready for it to end by offering them a scaled-down, more intimate version on Saturday.